According to the “experts” in Las Vegas the early Superbowl favorites for the 2013 season are the San Francisco 49ers, the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks. The emergence of these two football teams as Superbowl contenders over the last couple of seasons is just one of the factors that have raised the level of intensity in this rivalry. Let’s take a look at some other ones shall we?
Coach vs. Coach
It’s safe to say that Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh know each other real well. Besides being division rivals, these two also apposed each other in the college ranks as well. Of course, Pete Carroll’s USC Trojans dominated college football during his coaching tenure but in 2009, in a game between USC and Harbaugh’s Stanford Cardinal, Stanford destroyed USC and it was a late two-point conversion attempt with the game seemingly in hand that irked Carroll.
One of the more interesting things about these two is the contrasting coaching styles. Pete Carroll was born a California kid and has a very laid-back attitude that he incorporates in his coaching. Harbaugh on the other hand is very much old school and hard-nosed which can be seen when his team takes the field. His sideline histrionics are the best in the league and his players seem to love it as well.
Styles make fights
In 2011, Jim Harbaugh’s first season as coach, San Francisco came out of nowhere to reach the NFC championship game. Since then the 49ers have played a brand of football unfamiliar to a now quarterback driven league. Two key elements that they dominate in is running the ball and stopping the run. Their offensive line controls the tempo of the game and their defense consistently win the turnover battle, gets after the quarterback and doesn’t miss any tackles.The rest of the teams in the division have followed suit as they are trying to improve themselves by emulating what the 49ers have done. So far, it has been the Seahawks with Marshawn Lynch and their bruising running game, and their talented defense that allowed a league best 15.3 points per game in 2012 that have vastly improved.
Stars under center
When we talk about the quarterbacks in this rivalry we are clearly not talking Manning vs. Brady but I believe it has potential to eventually grow to that level. Colin Kapernick and Russell Wilson both made excellent strides last year given their youth and inexperience. Wilson tied Peyton Manning for most touchdown passes as a rookie and Kaepernick established a new single-game rushing record for a quarterback when he ran for 181 yards against the Green Bay Packers. Both of these guys are part of the new age quarterback that can hurt you with both their arm and their feet. Kaepernick is the bigger, faster, stronger of the two which might give him an edge on paper, but what both share is intangibles like intelligence and leadership that both have excelled at so far.
Both of these teams are loaded with talent but the NFC crown might come down to who isn’t playing. Michael Crabtree injury has been well documented and is expected to be out most of the year. Percy Harvin who was aquired by the Seahawks has also been dealing with a hip injury and is scheduled to get a second opinion. If it’s determined that he needs surgery then he will miss a significant amount of time. With these injuries it will be key for someone unexpected to step up and contribute.
The NFC west, once the laughing stock of the NFL is now one of the best that features the best rivalry in the sport. The Seahawks and the 49ers are the two best teams in the league and with the back and forth banter and the dislike between the coaches, it is apparent that they are not very fond of each other. From Brandon Browner saying that he wants to wrap his hands around Jim Harbaugh’s neck to the famous “What’s your deal?” game between Stanford and USC, this rivalry has built up tremendously over a relatively short period of time which makes their first meeting in week 2 one of the most anticipated games in the season.